Too late to stop mast

By Glenn Ebrey

FUMING residents have been left with an "ugly" phone mast on their doorstep, because the council left it too late to block the proposal.

Lewisham Council had 56 days to refuse the application by phone company T-Mobile, to build a mast disguised as a lamppost, in Whitefoot Lane, Catford.

But the mast has now been put up, because the council registered its objections after 57 days one day outside the permitted time frame.

The council is now taking its case to the Government, as it considers taking action against T-Mobile.

But residents still want to know the answer to one question "why did you leave it so late to respond?".

Lewisham Council claims the case was determined within 56 days, because it counts the day it received the application as day zero in the objection process.

T-Mobile has exploited a legal loophole however, by arguing the day of receipt is day one, meaning Lewisham was too late with its objections.

Work to put up the mast has now started but residents are furious it has reached this stage.

Linda Connors, of Downderry Road, said: "The council should not have left it to the last minute to respond."

The 46-year-old added: "Everyone has mobile phones these days but there are already plenty of masts. Why put up another one?

"You hear lots of stories about the health impacts of these things. It is a definite worry for us."

Elaine Parr, of Verdant Lane, leads the users' group at nearby Forster Park.

She said: "Why did the council not respond earlier? This is what we all want to know.

"The last we heard was this was not going ahead, then it suddenly appears.

"The mast looks appalling and none of us have any idea about the health risks involved."

Mrs Parr says she is also concerned about the health risks posed by the mast, with an under-fives' play centre nearby.

Whitefoot ward councillor Daniel Houghton says the council must adopt an "urgent change of policy", to ensure similar cases do not arise in the future.

He added: "It is madness for the council to determine applications on the last possible day."

Lewisham Council says it is waiting to hear from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister but believes "recent guidelines" support its view of events.

A spokesman added the council is exploring whether it can take action against T-Mobile.

Nobody from T-Mobile was available for comment at the time of going to press.

10:06am today

© Copyright 2001-2006 Newsquest Media Group

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